Thorough soul-searching has gone on among the American track and field fancy since our U.S. team, instead of trouncing the Russians, squeaked through to an embarrassingly meager win in the men's division while the women suffered an embarrassingly one-sided defeat. But perhaps not quite thorough enough.
The men's team horsed around too much with the women's team, it was suggested—and denied. Our guys are too highly strung. Our team was too young and inexperienced. We did not have enough pre-meet competition, whereas the Russians had plenty. And so on.
All of this is simply an extension of another game the U.S. plays too often and too well: pin the tail on the scapegoat. The fact is that those Russians just may be awfully good—and better we face the possibility now than be surprised at Tokyo in '64.
1� LENGTHS FROM GLORY
The worries that go with owning a good Thoroughbred, instead of just an ordinary animal, were described here recently (SI, July 22) by Ernest Havemann, writer, horseplayer and now horse owner. The horse, a filly named Nubile, lost to the great Cicada by a mere neck some time back and Havemann knew he was in trouble. He would have to decide whether to invest $1,500 to keep Nubile in the $172,812.50 Delaware Handicap, world's richest race for fillies and mares.
Nubile did run, as all his friends knew she would, and Havemann was as nervous and worried as he expected to be. Trying to relight a cigar, he flipped it into a glass of Scotch. When Nubile's jockey did not appear in his scheduled fourth race Havemann looked as if he might flip in with the cigar. It turned out all right. The jockey had scratched himself to keep fit for Nubile in the seventh.
Havemann watched the race with Trainer Reinier Vandernat sitting in front of him. This was a good idea because when Havemann sits in front, Vandernat pounds him black and blue.
Nubile ran fourth. Havemann, coatless, with hands on hips and binoculars dangling, stared straight ahead, a trace of a smile on his lips. "I'll be darned," he said, then shrugged, smiled more broadly, mopped his brow. The winner, Waltz Song, had been a rank outsider who paid $148.60, and had been beaten by Nubile several times.
"Imagine," Havemann said, "one and three-quarters lengths from glory." And, he might have added, a $122,062 purse—Nubile, by her fourth-place finish, at least paid the bills (she got $7,250).